This post was inspired by an early post on the Wynning History blog from March 2014.
It’s not even Opening Day, but we are already missing Major League Baseball. With spring training cancelled and the 2020 baseball season postponed for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus and Covid-19, we are seeking refuge in the past.
On the blog, we’ve written quite extensively about the 1906 season in the short-lived Williams Valley League of Central Pennsylvania. This was semi-professional baseball at its finest with a mixture of skilled amateurs and professionals looking to perfect their art and make it to the big leagues. The Williams Valley League featured four teams duking it out for baseball supremacy in the southern Coal Region. The two most competitive were Williamstown and Lykens. Tower City could put up a fight on a good day and the tiny Orwin team struggled to find a win (and bowed out of the season early).
Special to the [Harrisburg] Telegraph
Williamstown, Aug. 2, 1906 – For the second time in four days the leaders of the Williams Valley League were yesterday defeated by Lykens, last season’s champions. Score 6 to 0.
It was an awful blow to Williamstown, who for a long time had everything their own way, but recently have met with reverses.
There was great joy in Lykens last evening over the victory. More so because it was Williamstown who suffered. Nowhere in this section of the State is the rivalry so intense as it is between Williamstown and Lykens. The closeness of the present race has added to the excitement and there is more baseball enthusiasm to the square inch in the Lykens Valley coal regions than anywhere in the State.
Everybody in this section is baseball crazy. They are wild. It is “baseballitis” pure and simple, and it is the kind that makes everybody take notice. In this town and Lykens it is baseball from daybreak to bedtime. Nobody sleeps until the games have been played over and over again by men, women and children. Unless one is one the scene of the battles they can no conception of the interest taken in baseball here and in the neighboring towns. If the Tri-State towns had a third as much to the square inch there would be no question about paying salaries. If the same spirit was shown in Harrisburg by the baseball rooters as at the Lykens and here the team would be at the top.
Business is conducted to suit baseball in this section and there is no business from 4 p.m. on, when there is a baseball game. Nobody eats any supper here until 8 p.m. when there is a game of ball. Miners quit work at 4 p.m. and they are at the game one hour later and you know they are there. Women and children dressed in holiday attire go to the games in large numbers.
From early morning until noon one can transact business. From 12 o’clock until 4 p.m. the towns present a Sunday appearance, but at that hour there is an awakening and it is here or at Lykens the multitude move in but one direction to the ball games.
Railroads run their trains to and from the grounds, and it is a great scene to watch the mass of human beings rush from the train to the grounds.
Baseball is a paying investment hereabouts because everybody is interested. Amateur baseball was good enough last season, but this year they want something better and they are getting it at 15 cents a head, with an extra 10 cents for the grand stand. If there is less than a thousand at a game[,] business is poor, but that is not often. This does not pay the expenses. That fact, however, brings no worriment…
The Williams Valley Baseball League is backed by good people. Each town has its athletic association and when the crowds are small[,] there are men ready to come to the rescue if necessary, but that has not been the case this season. Each association has been able to finance their team in a satisfactory manner and they are not paying very small salaries either.
Many Future Greats
In the Williams Valley League are many future greats and there are also players who have played in the Tri-state and other leagues.
On the Williamstown team are “Jake” Drauby, Pete Agnew, “Dick” Carpenter, “Red” Chellew, Bickle, and the Coboliski brothers [Stan Coveleski and Harry Coveleski]. Lykens has “Doc” Blough and the Foster brothers. These men get good salaries. It is said the Williamstown has two $150 men and that Lykens pays several players $125 each every month. Those receiving less seem to be satisfied, as they play the game for all this in it, and they have an easy time of it at that, but no one worries over that point. Ball players in this section go to bed when they like. They also have a rule here and at Lykens that all players must exercise for 30 minutes after dinner and then sleep until 4 p.m., and in between noon and that hour there is no difficulty in locating a player.
At the head of the league are Dr. G.M. Stites, pension examiner, and C.W. Reubendall, a well-known druggist.
They are hustlers in every sense that the word implies. They attend the majority of the games and are boosters from early until late. They have the support of the best people of the community. The business men close their stores for the games. The factories close down one hour earlier to allow everybody to get to the games, and few houses are occupied when a battle is on. The miners make up time during hours for their meals in order to get away early.
Those who find it impossible to get to a game generally keep posted as to the progress of the games. The employees of the trolley company act as special messengers and as they go from town to town they call out the scores. If they don’t, the car is stopped by some urchin or man, sometimes a young woman, and a request made for the score.
Supper follows the games and after that large crowds gather on the street corners and discuss the national game.
The Williams Valley League is putting up a good article of baseball. It would be cheap at 25 cent admission and the crowds would be just as large.
Each team has one day off every week, but when opportunity affords double headers are played, a game in two towns, the crowds going from one place to another after the first game. In each town are enclosed grounds, and a notable feature is that very few attempts are made to jump the fence at a ball game. The small boy either works for a ticket by helping to put the grounds in shape or pays a dime. If he has no money, some good, liberal rooter will see that he gets in. The games this season have been exceptionally fast.
Yesterday’s battle here[,] while interesting[,] was one sided, and was the first in 10 days with a score over four. Lykens is going after the pennant and they will fight hard to land it again. They have pitchers plenty but “Doc” Blough seems to be the one upon whom they pin their faith and he has done much for Lykens this season. Yesterday was his best day this season, but one hit being made. Someone said a Tri-State gum shoe man was looking up material and this may have been an incentive for him to work. However, Blough is pitching good ball. He is back in his old time form and if he keeps up the pace and takes good care of himself he will be in fast company next season.
Back of him was a good team of youngsters. They hit the ball and fielded in brilliant style. Nebinger, Litchie, Murphy and Daubert were a strong infield.
The local stars played a dopey game. Drauby made the only hit. Pete Agnew was unable to hold some of the twists sent in by the Shamokin end. “Red” Chellew and Jake Drauby were butchering on Monday and Chellew lost a part of his finger which made his playing painful. “Bracky” is showing good form as an infielder and is making good, while “Dick” Carpenter takes good care of second.
Poor base running, after Drauby had hit[,] lost Williamstown an opportunity to score.
The locals hit the ball in the first and third innings, and Biehl’s home run was [his] sixth and came in the 4th inning. After that both teams settled down and it was a great battle until the finish. Today the same teams play at Lykens and there will be at least 1,500 people at hand. Yesterday’s victory places Lykens close to the top and they want to get today’s game and go up higher.”
Lykens went on to win the 1906 championship after a heated, season-long fight.
The season included one future Hall of Famer (Coveleski), a future National League MVP and World Series winner (Daubert), and countless other players with big league ambition and experience.
Featured Image: A game at the Lykens ballfield along the Summit Branch Railroad tracks in Wiconisco Townshp, 1900s.